MBZUAI taps Berkeley professor to help build startup-friendly campus


Abu Dhabi’s Artificial Intelligence University tapped a renowned academic in machine learning and AI research from the University of California, Berkeley, to offer advice on accelerating entrepreneurship and attracting top talent to campus.

Michael Jordan has been named the first laureate professor at Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) and honorary director of a new laureate faculty program to attract other academic leaders in the field, which he will help build with university president Eric Xing.

People have heard of Michael Jordan in the basketball world, but Michael Jordan is an even bigger star in our world

Eric Xing, President of MBZUAI

“People have heard of Michael Jordan in the basketball world, but Michael Jordan is an even bigger star in our world,” Dr. Xing said of Mr. Jordan, as quoted by Scientific journal as the most influential computer science author of 2016.

The new Fellowship Program aims to be a “one-stop place for leading researchers to immerse themselves in areas of inquiry, build research teams and communities, and conduct intimate scientific exchanges without worrying about administrative burdens. and lack of access to finance, IT infrastructure and data”. said Mr. Xing.

He added that the role of the “modern university” is “to be a catalyst for economic development” in the community where it operates, connecting students and faculty to entrepreneurial and business opportunities. Mr. Jordan, who supervises doctoral students at UC Berkeley, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in Silicon Valley, will be a key advisor in shaping this strategy.

Silicon Valley is widely considered the benchmark for connecting universities to the local economy.

The region has been a global center of technology innovation for half a century, benefiting enormously from the research pipeline and alumni from its neighbors UC Berkeley and Stanford University in the southern San Francisco Bay Area.

Cities around the world, including Abu Dhabi, are vying to replicate the Silicon Valley model.

Few have succeeded, Jordan said, because universities haven’t prioritized funding early-stage startups or research that addresses practical, real-world challenges with sound business models.

He, along with Mr. Xing and University Provost Fakhreddine Karray, aim to emphasize these areas. According to Xing, autonomous driving and supply chain optimization for the logistics industry are two ripe research areas for MBZUAI.

MBZUAI has a unique opportunity to be a regional leader in the field of AI, as the only graduate-level university in the world singularly developing AI tools.

With more than 100 AI graduate programs around the world, technology development and education centers are largely concentrated in North America, China, and the United Kingdom.

To that end, Mr. Jordan said Abu Dhabi was well placed to tap into the massive pent-up demand for AI education from young people in China, India and other parts of the world. ‘South East Asia.

UC Berkeley’s machine learning doctoral program, for example, drew about 3,000 applications from around the world in the last admissions cycle for just 10 spots, he said. He estimated that 1,500 applicants were eligible for a place.

“We are in an ideal position where supply [for students in AI] has completely changed in the last 10 years,” he said, leaving plenty of room for new programs to succeed.

The university strives to identify and help create a pool of innovators and start-ups who deserve any stage of funding and companies and government actors here in the UAE “who could invest both in people and projects,” he said.

One funding model to consider from UC Berkeley is The House Fund.

The House is a pool of venture capital funds, largely capitalized by the university’s endowment, to invest in start-up or early-stage start-ups founded by students, alumni, and faculty.

“The UAE is well placed,” Mr Jordan said, to succeed where others have failed.

“It’s well connected to the world, which means people will want to come here, you can attract people with ideas. There are financing infrastructures… but we can do better, [funding] should be connected to the university,” he added. “It can’t be a tower on a hill.”

Launch of the Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence: in pictures

Updated: January 14, 2022, 03:51


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